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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sam Crawford, October 26, 1985. Interview K-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

OWASA informs Chapel Hill residents of the Cane Creek Reservoir plan

Crawford describes how the citizens of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, first became aware of the Cane Creek Reservoir project in 1975. Crawford explains how the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) informed the citizens that the reservoir was going to be built, without consulting them about the process of the implications. According to Crawford, it was the authoritarian way in which OWASA informed of the decision that initially sparked opposition and disillusionment.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sam Crawford, October 26, 1985. Interview K-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

So, when did you first hear about this reservoir?
About a week before they said they were going to start working on it.
When was that; do you remember?
Seventy … fall of seventy five, I think that is right. Time runs together when you get our age. [Laughter]
Our age, I just turned thirty five last week and was traumatized.
I just turned thirty six last spring. It was interesting. I was taking a development course once, the child development course, and the instructor was saying, "Do you have a time that you knew without a doubt that you were no longer a child, and that you had become an adult?" And I know specifically, because I turned thirty one day and Flinn was born the next day and it was like [Laughter] . Anyway, but we found out about it, the sorta progress of it was, that they decided. There may have been a couple of other people who had inklings of it cause there had been a couple of… One of the things that had happened about a year before was that the University had gone to the Environmental Management Commission and had the quality rating of Cane Creek changed. Before that it was an agricultural usage, and they had it moved into a A-2 usage, which is a municipal usage water supply usage. And nobody really knew anything about it. It was just not something that anybody talked about, or even that anybody dealt with. [Interruption] So, essentially we heard about it then. There was a public meeting held at that point in time in which the people who were the future, this was before OWASA was in existence, in the transition, who came out and I think they were more surprised than we were. I think they were expecting like ten people and there were like two hundred people showed up and they were blown away. I mean, it was a real ugly meeting. They essentially said, "We are going to start the dam in two weeks and this is where we are going to put it and this is whose land we are going to take and this is how much we are going to pay you for it and go home." I mean, that is literally what they said. And people were pretty … I mean that was just a pretty amazing kinda thing to have people do. I think in hindsight, that if there had been any sense of equality about it on part of the people in Chapel Hill, that the whole business could have been resolved with some … I think if they had come out and said, "We would like to figure some way to get some of this water. How can we do it with the least amount of difficulity to you. How can we be flexible?" But, see, OWASA has never ever shown any sort of flexibility possibilities. It's always gonna be this way, this big. You know, there were lots of possible ways to do it. You could build a series of small dams, you could build a series of catchment basins rather than dams. There are lots of other ways to do it which would result in a few million gallons more or less, or a few million dollars more or less. But essentially when you are talking about this much water, this much money, fairly negligible things. But that was never a possibility, it was always this is what we are going to do. Which caught a fair number of people wrong. I mean, that is just not the way people out here do business. So at that point in time, there was a kinda … You know, I don't know how decisions get made, except everybody just decided that we needed to talk more about it. So two or three of us, four or five of us, and people would talk in clumps or groups. About a week later, kinda called a meeting of everybody who wanted to come, at the community building. There were a couple hundred people.